An excerpt from 3way’s script review for All the Old Knives which will be available 05/04/22:

I think it is worth mentioning that this draft is from 2014, so quite a while ago. I watched the film a few days ago., and while I enjoyed the movie I had more fun with this draft. Hard to say who messed up here with the film though since it’s based on a novel and the writer wrote the movie we saw in the end…

I do feel the writer of the novel AND script, Olen Steinhauer, showed some flashes of not completely understanding the screenplay format.

For example:

In describing Celia, we get:

In spite of the gloom on her face, and the eyes swollen
from too little sleep, Celia is recognizably gorgeous.

OK, I understand this is 2014, but even then – 8 years ago – this feels easy and lazy. “Let’s just describe our woman as hot…” there are better ways here people! Give us something besides her looks and let the casting director figure that out.

However, for a movie that takes place mostly at a table, I did find the story pretty compelling. It reminded me of older Cold War films, where there was not a whole lot of action but more was spies trying to outsmart each other.

The basic gist of the plot is a while back (2009) we see a terrorist take over a plane. It does not go well. The main players here are Henry Pelham (Chris Pine) and Celia Harrison (Thandiwe Newton). These scenes are played in flashbacks. In the present, Henry is tasked with trying to figure out what went wrong with the hijacking. It turns out that the spy office they are a part of (maybe the CIA but it’s indicated they may be something more than that) believes there was a mole in their office that possibly helped the terrorist on the plane. Celia has since left the division, gotten married and has children. Henry is tasked with going to speak with her as part of the investigation, trying to figure out if maybe she was the mole. Complicating matters is the fact that they were lovers when the hijacking happened, and Henry still clearly has feelings for her.

Is she a plant, a mole? Time will tell over a very talky dinner…

Honestly, I LOVED this script. I did not love the movie. I LIKED it. It was fine. But something got lost in translation between the original novel, the 2014 script and the movie we got now in 2022.

The script that I looked at was not perfect, that is for sure. There were some times where it was clear Steinhauer was not well-versed in how a screenplay works.

At one point early on. Henry is walking through an airport and the script states:
“Asshole, “ Henry thinks.

Well, that’s all well and good in a novel where we can always see a character’s thoughts. But this clearly does not work in a screenplay with the obligation to “show,” not tell. How are we supposed to know that Henry is thinking this? There is no way for us to do this, and just shows that the writer is unfamiliar with the screenplay format.

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